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Archive for March, 2009

Desperately seeking an audit

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Thursday, March 26th, 2009 by Bev Clark

MPs and mercs make me sick.

I read with interest that Eric Matinenga, the new minister of constitutional and parliamentary affairs, tried to get MDC MPs to take a united stand and turn down the fancy Mercedes Benz that Mugabe was giving every newly appointed minister. Eric didn’t get much success. Well unless you count David Coltart who said no thanks. The others said yes to their new status symbol, including Eric .

We need an audit.

We need an audit of this kind of thoughtless expenditure whilst Zimbabweans are starving and whilst our politicians ask for a bail out.

We need an audit of the perks and pleasures being handed out to this unwanted bloated new government.

We need an audit of the “ghosts” on the civil service payroll; we need to weed them out before asking foreign governments to pay our wage bills.

We need an audit of the number of farms under Mugabe’s land reform program that are actually being worked rather than laying idle before we ask foreign governments to give us money; money without conditions.

Reuters reports that “The government is seeking $5 billion. Winning that, however, depends on Western donors being satisfied that a democratic government is in place and that economic reforms are being implemented to reverse a decade-long collapse which Mugabe’s critics blame on his policies.”

Quite clearly there isn’t a democratic government in place. There is a political arrangement in place. And until those in power take reform in all its forms seriously, they shouldn’t get a cent.

Three cheers for Zimbabwe

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Tuesday, March 24th, 2009 by Bev Clark

I received an email today from CHIPAWO with the title Hooray for Zimbabwe! So, in the pursuit of sharing something positive, here’s a story to feel uplifted by.

Some time back, CHIPAWO acquired a very nice Renault minibus – from someone who said he was doing us a favour! The only problem – which I am sure he was well aware of – was that it is an extremely rare kind of Renault. Even Renault in South Africa did not even know it existed! I had to track it down on the internet and discovered that it mostly served as an ambulance in Germany and the UK!

I did once find a place in London that specialises in Renaults and they provided me with a coil. But then we needed a distributor and nothing could be found. So it has been standing around for a long time in a new coat of yellow paint – one of CHIPAWO’s colours – looking rather regal and distinguished.  It managed to crawl once to Mutare for the Africa University Arts Festival last year but got no further than Marondera on the return and had to be towed. When we had to leave the CHIPAWO office, it came here and joined the queue in my driveway of CHIPAWO non-runners.

I SOS’ed someone in London, rather aplogetically mumbling something about I know this is not exactly his cup of tea and so forth and and asked him if he could scout around. This was his reply:

“I’m afraid the news is not good for your van.  According to a Renault spare parts specialist that van is “extremely rare” and one would struggle to find the part in question.  I will continue to look but I just thought I would let you know that the prognosis is not good.”

Gloom and doom? Oh, no! Despite years of multiple meltdowns, collapses, disintegration, bloodbaths, genocide, mass starvation and lethal epidemics all reported on or prophesied for Zimbabwe, we still stand. How? Listen to this!

A little man down the road in Mountbatten Drive, Marlborough, Harare, not far from Greencroft of glorious memory, called Va Makonya, has left all the boffins in South Africa and the UK with egg on their faces. Va Mokonya decided to tackle the problem that had stumped the world. He looked for a distributor which looked like it might fit. He fiddled and filed and welded and willed it to work. And after countless little adjustments and tinkerings, yesterday afternoon, under his patient hands, the dragon roared into life, full of French esprit, elan, eclat, eclair and all that.

By the way I am eating a superior Zimbabwean jam doughnut right now as I write – don’t tell me anything about Dunkin’ Donuts’!

And so three cheers for the little man. Three cheers for the Fifth World – we must have gone down a few divisions by now. And three cheers for Zimbabwe!

Loving our lumps and bumps

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Tuesday, March 24th, 2009 by Fungai Machirori

After years of constant worry, it’s good to finally know the truth. There is absolutely NO CURE for cellulite! Well, that’s unless the medical doctor I watched on the Oprah Winfrey show was only trying to sabotage sales of all the creams and potions produced by those oh-so-cutting edge cosmetic companies who promise a reduction in the ‘orange-peel effect’ of cellulite within 28 days – or your money back.

Mmmm. Now, I have never personally tried those creams, figuring that I would probably just be donating my hard-earned money to companies who realise that far too many women are suckers for products that don’t do much else than raise false hopes of a new body. But still, something in the pit of my gut tells me that these miracle potions aren’t what they seem to be.

And so while Oprah’s guest might have been the source of much disappointment and cursing from women from all quarters, for me he delivered the most liberating news I have heard all year.


Because, in effect, he told me to stop fretting and fussing about a few bumps and lumps on my body and focus on the real humps and bumps on the road called life. It’s petty and time-sapping to worry about things that I have no control over, and things that will have no consequence in the future.

I hardly imagine that anyone is eulogised with the following words, “She was a great person with a kind heart and a bit of cellulite on her thighs.”

It sounds ridiculous, and yet it is these very trivial things that keep so many women imprisoned. We figure we aren’t good enough because we have been made to believe that there is an existing template of ‘the ideal woman’ that we are all meant to fill out. If we don’t quite fit into it, we think we don’t have the same value as every other woman.

Well, I am tired of that. And I am writing this piece to declare it! For a long time, I wouldn’t wear sleeveless tops for one simple reason. I thought that the stretch marks on the back of my arms would cause offence to people and make them think less of me for having such horrible marks. It was an entrapping, all-consuming feeling that told me I had to protect society from my ugliness.

But you know what? I met a young woman who challenged my ideas about myself and made me rethink my attitude. She was a very beautiful girl, completely at ease with herself and dressed in a string top in all the glory of her stretch marks, both on the back and front of her arms. Now, it wasn’t the marks that I noticed first, but her sunny personality and confidence; her radiance. She didn’t care what anyone would say about her because she was too absorbed in full contentment and joy at being herself.

How many more of us would be happier if we acted just like this young woman? And how many more of us would be happier if people in this often cruel world would just let us be?

I know another young Zimbabwean woman with a birthmark down one half of her face who has to apply layers and layers of foundation every day to hide the mark because people cringe at it or tell her she looks disgusting. And I know women who go through the same make-up routine daily because they think that their beauty can only be fully manifested in coats and coats of propylene glycol and sodium dehydroacetate (just two ingredients from a foundation I have in my own makeup bag). Does beauty lie in ingredients most of can barely pronounce?!

Don’t get me wrong – makeup, exercise, healthy living and preening are not bad. They can definitely enhance natural beauty and make a person feel more confident. But they are not the cause of beauty. Beauty is inherent and ambiguous. It is not about how you look, but more about how you feel – not only about yourself, but also how you feel about those around you.

I have seen beauty in all the places where we think that there is none. Yes, even in the dimples of my thighs when I try to remember which piece of cake or plate of food I enjoyed too much of to get my little cellulite badge of honour. And when I feel bad about cellulite, I just say, “Thank you God that I even have these thighs!”

So I can’t do anything about my cellulite. No big deal. There are more important things that I can change, that we can all change by focusing more on what is within us.

ZANU-PF’s body language holds the key

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Tuesday, March 24th, 2009 by Dewa Mavhinga

These are interesting times in Zimbabwe. Political analysts are battling to make sense of recent pronouncements by President Robert Mugabe and other members of ZANU-PF’s inner sanctum. A case in point is Mugabe’s condolence message to ‘the Honourable Prime Minister’, Morgan Tsvangirai on the tragic loss of his wife. Another perplexing statement came from ZANU-PF Home Affairs Minister calling for an end to violence. But perhaps most perplexing of all is Mugabe’s plea for aid. These statements, to the uninitiated, may be a reflection of a changed and reformed ZANU-PF. Taken in isolation and at face value, a call for an end to violence by a ZANU-PF Minister paints a picture of a party ready to start afresh and make the necessary amends leading to the restoration of the rule of law, human rights and democracy. However, l urge dear readers not to put much emphasis on the words uttered by ZANU-PF leaders, but instead, to look at ZANU-PF’s body language for clues on where they really stand.

That talk is cheap cannot be over-emphasized. If indeed, the President cares so much about the MDC and its Prime Minister, does his conduct towards the MDC bear testimony to such concern? A close look at the treatment of the political prisoners, comprising civil society and MDC activists at the hands of the police and prison officers who answer only to ZANU-PF will reveal a different story of brutality, torture, and untold suffering. Shadreck Manyere, the photo journalist abductee still being held at Chikurubi Prison has a totally different understanding of ZANU-PF, based on his continued persecution under the guise of lawful prosecution.

Taking Mugabe’s plea for the international community to loosen purse strings and bail out Zimbabwe, one may believe that ZANU-PF has reformed. But when one considers the conduct of ZANU-PF a different story emerges. While Mugabe is calling for international aid at the Rainbow Towers, hundreds of ZANU-PF supporters are busy invading the farms of the last remaining white farmers. And the invaders are not just small fish in ZANU-PF, some of then hold very senior posts in ZANU-PF and in government. Not a word from ZANU-PF leadership condemning such an affront to property rights and other fundamental freedoms. Instead of taking steps to guarantee and protect property rights and by so doing boost international investor confidence, ZANU-PF’s body language betrays stubbornness and an unwillingness to change that never ceases to amaze me.

By carefully studying ZANU-PF’s body language l have arrived at the inescapable conclusion that ZANU-PF wishes to ‘have its cake and eat it,’ or to have it both ways. It is quite conceivable that President Robert Mugabe and ZANU-PF have made one huge mistake which is this: they assumed that MDC is the silver bullet needed to unlock international aid and that by merely having the MDC as part of an inclusive government then the international community would scramble to blindly pour in the much needed aid. Proceeding with this logic, ZANU-PF pressured and pestered the MDC to join the inclusive government. As soon as MDC was on board, ZANU-PF quickly called for aid to be given, pointing to the government of national unity as evidence of change.

At the same time, ZANU-PF firmly resisted any attempts at genuine reform. All the repressive and oppressive media laws are still firmly in place and functional. There has been no move to address openly political violence, to arrest perpetrators of political violence and ensure justice for victims of political violence. Instead, Kembo Mohadi, ZANU-PF Home Affairs Minister recently said to the nation, “Let bygones be bygones and let us focus on nation building.” What genuine, long lasting, and sustainable nation building can be done when victims are forced to forget about their wounds and pain and are denied access to justice? What national healing is possible when those who unleashed a reign of terror during the 2008 general and presidential elections walk free? What guarantees are there that, come the next parliamentary or presidential elections, the same thugs will not again unleash violence?

It is not enough for political leaders to talk about change without taking firm steps to implement that change. Change is not about having MDC as a partner in the inclusive government. Change is not about giving MDC ministers Mercedes benz cars and other so-called ‘symbols of power’. Change is about opening up political space and expanding the freedoms of all people who live within the borders of Zimbabwe. Change is about letting victims of political violence speak and listening to them and ensuring that they feel that justice has been done. Change is about bringing perpetrators of human rights violations to account in an impartial way. Change is about making sure that political leaders in Zimbabwe, as in all other respectable democracies, are accountable to the people.

While the international community demands accountability from the government of Zimbabwe, we, the citizens of Zimbabwe, also demand transparency and accountability on the part of our government. At the moment ZANU-PF’s body language is speaking loudly and clearly that genuine and wholesome change is not nigh. It appears the international community is also intently studying ZANU-PF’s body language to gauge levels of sincerity and commitment to change. This time, the proof of the pudding is required before eating. The body language of most Zimbabweans scattered across the globe with regards inclusive government developments has been quite telling; not many have been stirred to break camp and return home. As a patriotic Zimbabwean who firmly believes in the audacity of hope, l continue to look for signs of hope and life. I desperately want to give ZANU-PF the benefit of the doubt; however, a careful study of events on the ground cautions me against rush and misplaced optimism. I therefore reconcile myself to the sad and yet very real possibility that this inclusive government may disappoint absolutely.

It’s finally happening

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Tuesday, March 17th, 2009 by Fungai Machirori

“It’s finally happening,” the small voice in the pit of my belly whispered, eerily, into my ear.

I first heard it speak to me the week one of my good Zimbabwean friends told me that she had met a man who said he wanted to marry her. I instantly burst into uncontrollable laughter because – with all due respect to my friend – she is hardly marriage material. Like myself, she is not quite the most domesticated sort of young woman and prefers to roll out of bed in the late hours of weekend mornings and then distract herself from all household chores by watching re-runs of soaps or heading off to town to get away from it all. These actions have gotten her into trouble with her parents on several occasions, but still she declares that she’s far too lazy to give a care.

And so for me to imagine her being someone’s wife, waking up early to prepare her husband’s breakfast, doing double the amount of laundry she does now ( with a great deal of reluctance, at that) or picking out ties to match her husband’s suits ( he sounds like the type who would like that), is nigh on impossible. Yet somehow, this man sees the potential in my friend to love and nurture him for the rest of his life. And somehow my fun-loving, carefree friend can see herself fitting into this role.

“But I can actually see myself as his wife,” she stated with a tone that sounded genuine and willing to give it a try. That was when I stopped laughing and teasing her, realising that she had found someone she loved deeply enough to consider spending the rest of her life with. And that was also precisely the first time I heard that voice rise through me, adding its tone to the chorus of noises making their cacophonous music through me.

It is finally happening.

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Honouring ordinary heroes

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Tuesday, March 17th, 2009 by Amanda Atwood

A recent press statement MDC presses for national policy on hero status, caught my eye. In it, the MDC questions the “national hero” concept as it’s been appropriated by Zanu PF, and makes some important observations about the ordinary heroes – and sheroes – living amongst all of us.

It is erroneous to believe that only politicians qualify to be national heroes. Zimbabweans have produced the best minds in business, in sport, in music and in the arts in general. The MDC equally believes that one does not need to be dead to be appreciated in the country of their birth. Acknowledging talent and celebrating it is the hallmark of progressive and civilised societies. Read more